African Town

Putnam. Jan. 2022. 448p. Tr $18.99. ISBN 9780593322888.
Gr 7 Up–Human identity is built on the actions of those who came before, their histories creating a robust foundation upon which future generations can grow. In 1860, after the United States outlawed the importation of enslaved people, the Clotilda set sail across the Atlantic. It was on an illegal mission to collect one last shipment of enslaved people from Africa, and money and influence in the right places permitted the exchange to occur. Each day tested the resolve of those torn from their homeland: they were determined to survive in America while protecting the memories they held dear. This gripping novel recounts the story of the Clotilda’s voyage across the vast Atlantic. Told from the perspectives of myriad characters directly and indirectly involved in this event, the story reads much like Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, where each unique voice contributes to the greater whole. Carefully executed passages appear in various forms of free verse and poetry, and each one is specific to the particular character represented. This choice makes the individual contributors not only come alive but also stand out from one another as the narrative progresses. Extensively researched and purposefully designed, this book brings together details of events from 1859 to 1901 and culminates in several pages of back matter that reinforce the entire work.
VERDICT This honest, heartrending, and inspiring story is an important and necessary contribution to historical fiction collections for young adult readers.

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